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Ofelia Hunt

Ofelia Hunt is the author of My Eventual Bloodless Coup (Bear Parade). She lives in Portland, Oregon. This is her first novel.

Blurbs

"This book would like to give you an ice cream, but you will have to get in the van."

– Amelia Gray, author of Museum of the Weird

"The ironic is a mere ancient whisper in this torqued narrative: its odd violence feels true. Today & Tomorrow crashes through the windows of strip malls and paints the hypertrophic aisles with bristly-creepy hilarity."

– Stacey Levine, author of The Girl With Brown Fur

"Ofelia Hunt is the balladeer of the doe-eyed detrivores of over-stimulation. Within Today & Tomorrow, readers find the fried and the frayed nerves in the youth of the Hyperworld. All will be well, America, as long as the rims keep spinning and Hunt keeps writing."

– Matthew Simmons, author of A Jello Horse

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Today & Tomorrow

100% Real Ice Arena: Who Is Ofelia Hunt?

06/02/11

When we think of famous Ofelias, we first try to remember how Shakespeare spelled it, then we realize that isn’t going to help. As we start talking about Today & Tomorrow, there will be a lot to dive into: zambonis, grandfathers, violence, trauma.

But first: who is Ofelia Hunt?

True, she blogs and she seems to like the poet Kenneth Koch a lot, but is she even real? Several people who are familiar with her work have contacted me and asked me to spill the beans.

Here, in a Lit Pub exclusive, I’m prepared to tell you this: get a copy of Today & Tomorrow, look carefully at the copyright page, and then think about those times when you were a kid when you put on your favorite holster and smudged your voice. Or, if you played role playing games, how you made up the best names you could think of. Or how before high school tennis matches, the coaches had to formally introduce each player: “Blurgity will be playing #1 against Blurgity, Glurgity will be playing #2 against etc.” And sometimes I convinced my coach to introduce me as Xavier Damocles or Daradamand Fashuga, and I would pretend to be a foreign exchange student. All of which goes a little way toward the idea of how our imaginations construct their own ways of self-understanding, and the way writing a novel turns you into someone somewhat beside[s] yourself.

* * *

In an interview with NOÖ Journal’s Alicia LaRosa, Ofelia Hunt playfully talked about how being Ofelia Hunt is a process:

AL: Do you take on a specific persona as Ofelia Hunt? Do you dig deep within yourself to find this person, detach yourself from reality this way by projecting this personality, or do you simply act au naturale?

OH: I’d like to say I put on a special bathrobe and eye makeup and kitten slippers. But I’m far more boring. I decided Ofelia liked a number of specific things and typed them out: 11 point Garamond, hyphens, repetition, trickery, ‘math rock’, parking lots… I made a list of writers Ofelia admires: Jean Rhys, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, Stacey Levine, Franz Kafka, Lydia Davis, Kenneth Koch, Kurt Vonnegut, Lisa Jarnot, Diane Williams, Joy Williams, etc… Ofelia Hunt does not like or understand plot. Her favorite move is Suicide Club (a Japanese movie sometimes called Suicide Circle). I woke every day for about two years at four a.m. to write and revise for sixty to ninety minutes before work. This may have detached me from reality. I remember feeling tired a lot, and listening to a lot of hiphop. Ofelia often writes about the kinds of things I muse about throughout a day, the things I find funny or strange. I think of Ofelia as both the “I” in the novel and the writer of the novel, so the novel may be a memoir.

AL: Are any of the characters in the novel based off of people you know personally? Related to?

OH: No, or not really. At most, certain moments, memories, instances, are based on reality. I grew up near Highland Ice Arena, and throughout middle school the Friday night skate was the place to be. I’d like to say that every character is a composite of every person I’ve ever met if that composite had been born me. The grandfather character is probably the parent I wish I had, and to some degree, has a sense of humor very much like my mother’s.

* * *

As June continues, we’ll be having more interviews with Ofelia and more discussion about identity and more talking about how who we are copes with who we imagine we are.

Before you start the novel, I think it’s interesting to think about notions of authorship, and to try imagining Ofelia Hunt less as an “author” and more as an identity for testimony. After all, there is a long and rich literary history of pseudonyms, anonymity, authors putting themselves into their books, and other such identity shenanigans.

So what do you think of all this? What books have you read by pseudonymous authors? What do you believe to be the author’s role in claiming their voice? What exactly is a “voice” anyway?

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11 Comments

  1. Brian Warfield said on 06/02/11 at 1:58 pm Reply

    i’m just going to pick one random comment from this interview because it’s something i’ve been thinking a lot about lately: “authors putting themselves into their books.” it seems that this is happening a lot more now, but maybe i’m just noticing it more. i’ve chatted to some people about this and they’ve assured me it’s always happened, and i know that. but it seems like almost every book i’ve picked up lately has had a character with the author’s name in it. from Pale King to The Tragedy of Arthur. and it seemed to me kind of like how pharaohs had portraits painted of themselves in their tombs as a template for the afterlife. these authors are not satisfied with having their work survive them, they also need to encapsulate themselves. which is something ofelia hunt isn’t doing, instead creating an innacurate simulacrum to fool the gods.

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  2. Mike Young said on 06/02/11 at 2:10 pm Reply

    Yeah, one of my first times reading this done in a really jarring way was in Martin Amis’s Money, and it seemed really clever and revolutionary to me at the time, but I was also 16.

    I like what you’re saying about pharaohs, and it’s interesting to think of what Ofelia’s doing as “fooling” posterity, or making this conscious choice to let her work survive “herself” in a way that’s deliberately complicated to trace back to the real person.

    I’m going to post more about this next week, but an interview with Ofelia just went up on the group litblog We Who Are About to Die where Ofelia talks to Noah Cicero and says some really interesting things about lying/concrete reality/etc.

    Reply

  3. Chris Newgent said on 06/02/11 at 3:07 pm Reply

    This has been something I’ve been stirring around myself since Catherine Lacey talked about xTx and her use of a pen name, especially since I’ve been considering the use of a pen name myself, but not sure if I’ve the wherewithal to really keep up 2 identities, especially since Christopher Newgent already keeps me pretty damn busy. Unlike it seems what Ofelia is doing though, I’ll admit that my use of a pen name would be in part because of fear, to distance myself from what I am putting on the page to allow myself more vulnerability and “bravery” I suppose.

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    Molly Gaudry said on 06/02/11 at 3:10 pm

    In addition to writing under Molly Gaudry I also write under a pen name. There is only one editor who busted me on it, though, immediately. Which gave me a new respect for that editor, that s/he could pick up on my stylistic nuances and felt confident enough to ask if it was me hiding behind that name. Also, for the record, pen name has no publications to her/his name.

    Mike Young said on 06/02/11 at 6:31 pm

    I think sometimes using a fake name can be outside the context of bravery/fear entirely: more of a way to shake off selves that seem stale; costume and pageantry; which is itself kind of, in a way, brave to embrace in a culture so obsessed and insecure about authenticity.

    Chris Newgent said on 06/03/11 at 8:55 am

    Absolutely. Kind of ironically, Tim Jones-Yelvington immediately comes to mind, though his “psuedonym” takes the form of his persona, not a different name.

  4. DK said on 06/03/11 at 2:14 pm Reply

    Interesting discussion here, all. I don’t even use a pen name – I just shorten my last name to an initial most of the time – and it weirds people out. I’ve heard that it doesn’t sound like a writer’s name, which doesn’t make sense to me. Has anyone else heard anything like this? Are there by-default writerly names out there, and should we bend our own names to the whims of capital instead of just going by what we like/what’s comfortable?

    Besides, if names like Art Spiegelman don’t scare people away, then Dave K. should be fine, right?

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  5. DK said on 06/03/11 at 2:21 pm Reply

    I don’t even use a fake name – I just shorten my last name into an initial – and it makes people uncomfortable for whatever reason. I’ve heard that it doesn’t make me sound like a writer, but that doesn’t make any sense. Are some names more writerly than others? And should I bend my own name to the whims of marketing, instead of just going by what I like/what’s comfortable?

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    Mike Young said on 06/03/11 at 9:59 pm

    I think the rule is you’re only allowed to be a writer if you have three names, otherwise you’re just a graffiti artist. =(

  6. elizabeth ellen said on 06/04/11 at 5:43 pm Reply

    i find it interesting when an author chooses a pen name and an “identity” that is a different gender or sexual orientation or background than they themselves have, particularly when there are people interested in publishing or promoting or reading only a particular gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity. it’s amusing then when the people doing the promoting/publishing/reading feel “duped.”

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  7. Jordan Blum said on 06/06/11 at 3:18 pm Reply

    When I hear about an author putting his or herself into a novel, I instantly think of Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions.” For him, I believe it was a way to make his writing more unconventional while also mocking the fact that he, as the author, can totally manipulate the story at any point…doesn’t he fly over the world at some point?!

    For other writers, I think it’s a way to get around dichotomy; the “narrator” can express things that the “author” can’t.

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